ABQ firm restores, updates classic Land Rovers — for a price
For Doug Turner, restoring a classic Land Rover Defender is right up his wheelhouse. His fledgling business, called Heritage Driven, takes 25-year-old Land Rover Defenders, strips them down to the frames and rebuilds them to modern and highly customized specifications.
Launched two years ago by Turner, who owns public-affairs agency Agenda, the Heritage Driven team is refurbishing the classic British off-roaders for well-heeled customers. After revving up everything under the hood with a high-compression engine, adding better brakes and suspension, toughening them everywhere and adding as much luxury as the client wants, several restored and modified Defenders are ready to hit the road, on or off.
Turner was almost predestined for the enterprise, thanks to his dad. “My father had a Series 2 Land Rover in Cyprus in 1962 when he was in the Peace Corps,” said Turner. “The car (in Cyprus) still is on the road.” Since then, Turner has enjoyed tooling around in newer Rovers.
When he found out two companies back East were buying well-preserved Rovers, making them new and selling them to eager buyers, he figured there was a market out west for custom Defenders and imported three of them. Two more vintage vehicles are making their way to Heritage Driven’s shop in the same complex as the I-25 studios on Pan American Freeway.
After meeting actor Mark Consuelos, who was filming in New Mexico, and telling him about his nascent business, Turner found a kindred spirit and a customer. Consuelos, he said, wanted a ride that could handle almost any terrain but still look sharp and be reliable for daily driving.
It’s the most expensive build-out so far. The final price tag for the vehicle, which was recently shipped by trailer to Consuelos, was $170,000. It’s a darkgreen number with butterscotch leather interior and a seating capacity for nine, “which is insane,” said Turner.
Turner recruited Agenda COO Chris Taylor to oversee the day-to-day operations, which calls for five vehicles to get kitted out this year through the labors of lead mechanic Mark Terrien and fabricator George Hausner. They work using the body shells of first-generation Defenders, restoring or replacing each body panel and bolt so that the truck can perform like any modern car. Steering is rearranged as well since the cars were originally designed for left-side UK drivers . Then they add such amenities as air conditioning, a touchscreen infotainment system with GPS and a backup camera, wireless phone charging and built-in wi-fi. The leather seats are heated; the locks and windows are power-operated.
A more traditional version, not quite in the six-figure range, is headed to Jackson Hole, and two more are in production — one for a customer in Indianapolis and another for a customer in Texas.
Taylor said the enterprise has yet to recover its initial investment. “It’s capital heavy; we buy a lot of parts and modern automotive technology. But we’ll probably get to profitability by the second quarter” of 2018.
While Rover “restomods” will continue to be the centerpiece, Heritage Driven also is looking at restorations of other classics, such as Toyota Land Cruisers.